As the world sets its eyes and ears on Cincinnati, Ohio for the World Choir Games, the Cincinnati Art Museum
gives you another reason to celebrate world music. The Art of Sound: Four Centuries of Musical Instruments showcases musical instruments from across the globe selected from the Cincinnati Art Museums collection.
Spanning four continents and four centuries, this exhibition celebrates the impeccable craftsmanship of musical instruments. Adorned with elaborate inlay work, painted with striking designs, and carved with intricate detail, these works of art are as beautiful to look at as the sounds they were created to make. The Art Museums musical instrument collection includes over 800 pieces from around the world, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country. The collection represents over thirty musical cultures, notes curator Amy Miller Dehan. It represents how vital the arts, visual and performing, are to the strength and traditions of communities across the world.
The Art of Sound includes 115 musical instruments from the Cincinnati Art Museums permanent collection. Some of the instruments have not been displayed in more than two decades. They are grouped by geographic region/culture: Africa; Native America; Japan; China; Southeast Asia; Western Asia and North Africa; India; and Europe and America.
The Cincinnati Art Museum began collecting musical instruments in 1888, one year before the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired any instruments. Many of the antique instruments in the Art Museums collection were donated by William Howard Doane (18321915), a Cincinnati industrialist and composer whose personal and professional travels took him to remote locations across the globe.
Charles Rudig, the former head of the Musical Instruments Department at Sothebys, has helped survey and assess the collections over the last year. According to Rudig, The Cincinnati Art Museum possesses one of the best world instrument collections in the United States, possibly even in the world.
Visitors are not only be able to see the pieces, but also to hear and see some of them in use by using an interactive sound and video component especially designed for the exhibition. Exceptional works drawn from across the Art Museums collection, ranging from paintings and ceramics to prints and photographs, also serves to illustrate similar instruments in use and place them in historical and geographical context.
Highlights of the exhibition include a suite of Japanese instruments with elaborate lacquer decoration depicting flowers, butterflies, and animals; a Burmese Saung (harp) whose boat-shaped, wooden body is decorated with scenes from the life of Buddha in black and gold lacquerwork; a Native American flute of smooth, glossy black slate with sculptural, carved depictions of a beaver, horned toad, and a fantastic mask with head dress and gills; a 1619 viola crafted by the Amati Brothers, one of the most important and influential families in the history of violin making; and a nineteenth-century guitar by the French luthier George Chanot, believed to have belonged to Napoleons Empress Eugenie, with a fingerboard inlaid with mother-of-pearl scenes of Paris.
These instruments make sound come alive, but they also are objects worthy of our attention and enjoyment in and of themselves, comments Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky. Like so many objects in our collection of over sixty thousand works of art, they transform use into beauty.